by Ward Jordan
On April 20, 2014, U. S. Marine Corps veteran Oliver Mitchell, a former employee with Veterans Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Medical Center, filed a Certification and Notice of Interested Parties with the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California. The court document identifies approximately 1,000 veterans who Mitchell alleges had their records destroyed without proper notice by the VA. Mitchell's recent court filing reads:
"All parties have a claim against the Defendant for failure to inform that parties records, documents, appointments may have been destroyed by the defendants."
The "Certification and Notice of Interested Parties" specifically lists the names of patients who had requested either magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or computed tomography (CT) scans from 1999 thru 2008. The patient purge list, which includes names of persons who may have been denied timely access to care without proper notification.
Notably, the patient purge listing of names augments Mitchell's amended lawsuit filed in March 2014 (Mitchell v Shinseki, Case No. CV 13-6030-ODW). The pending lawsuit alleges that Mitchell, who once worked as a Patient Services Assistant in the VA's Imaging Service, Radiology Section, was asked in November 2008 to destroy medical requests for MRI scans and CT scans. In the complaint, Mitchell discloses how VA officials schemed to hide the hospital's inefficiency by purging the medical records backlog which identified veterans who had been waiting for care.
According to the April 24, 2014, article by the CNN investigative team "at least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list."
"If the VA's Office of Inspector General had taken the concerns I presented seriously; or if the Office of Special Counsel had investigated the grave concerns I had requested both in 2009 and in 2013, then perhaps the lives of U.S. veterans could have been saved," said Oliver Mitchell. Mitchell says he still has an open request, which remains unanswered, for the OSC to investigate the matter.
Veteran Oliver Mitchell is now homeless. He reports that in 2011, VA constructively removed him as a result of his whistleblowing disclosures about agency officials destroying patient records. Notwithstanding, Mitchell's own personal hardships, he continues to seek help from Congress to ensure that veterans get timely clinic access to prevent disabilities, that veterans get prevention screening for cancer as requested, and that veterans get the overall healthcare needed to develop or maintain healthy lifestyles.
On February 11, 2014, The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C) initiated a Freedom of Information Act request seeking any written record within the U.S. Veterans Affairs which purportedly instructed all of its imaging services across the country to mass purge patient imaging orders for studies older than 6 months. VA provided a 2007 powerpoint presentation reflecting "waiting times are a problem" at the VA and that "improving wait times would result in better patient care."